Some of my favorite fantasy heroines when I was Kat's age were Harry from Robin McKinley's THE BLUE SWORD (she gets to sword-fight AND have a sizzling romance!), Beauty from Robin McKinley's BEAUTY (who reads Latin fluently and loves books more than almost anything else), and Tamora Pierce's Alanna (who gets to be a knight). Since I grew up, I've added lots more to the list, including Ysabeau Wilce's Flora from FLORA SEGUNDA and FLORA'S DARE.
My list of favorite books has always been split pretty evenly between fantasy novels and Regency-era historical romances (especially on the romantic comedy end of the spectrum). When I was 12, I loved Robin McKinley AND Georgette Heyer, JRR Tolkien AND Jane Austen. So Kat's inspiration really came from both of my favorite genres.
Lots of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s romantic heroines have younger sisters who don’t show up all that much in the books. When they do, though, they tend to be pretty snarky and disrespectful of their older sisters, the heroines of the books! So in my book, I wanted to make the snarky younger sister (rolling her eyes at her older sisters’ romantic misadventures) the true heroine, and give her lots of exciting magical adventures of her own. And I wanted to make her as smart and as brave as all the fantasy heroines I’ve loved the most over the years.
In some ways, we’re the exact opposite: Kat’s the youngest in her family, with two older sisters (and one hopeless older brother who doesn’t show up much in Book 1). I’m the oldest in my family, with two younger brothers and no sisters at all. But on the other hand, I definitely worked from my own experience in creating a noisy, loving family, full of siblings who may get into a lot of arguments and have very different ideas about how to solve each other’s problems…but they’re also deeply, deeply loyal to each other at the core, and they won’t let ANYONE hurt their family.
3. What fascinates you about Regency England?
Wow, that’s a good question. I’ve always found it really fun to “visit” in books and movies (although I’d hate to actually live there), but I’ve never really thought through *why* I’m so attracted to the period. There’s just something about having so many rigid social rules in place that makes it even more fun to create characters willing to break them!
4. With no spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write in KAT, INCORRIGIBLE? What about your favorite scene now that you're done writing it?
They’re actually both the same: I love the first scene where a highwayman shows up! When I was first writing the book, I didn’t actually plan for it to happen at that point. It just came out as I was typing. I actually stopped and stared at the screen. “I can’t do that,” I thought…but then I did! And I was laughing the whole way.
5. Oh, the highwayman scene had me in giggles too. Now, according to your "About Me" page on your website, you have done a great deal of traveling and learning. Can you tell us how one particular learning experience found its way into your writing?
6. Describe to us what your typical writing day looks like.
Nowadays, it starts after my two-year-old son leaves for preschool, and ends when he comes home three hours later. In the old days before I was a mom, when I was writing Kat, Incorrigible, I had all sorts of routines around my writing. Every day before I started writing Kat, I would take ten minutes to read Jane Austen’s letters, to get myself into the right frame of mind. I also kept a Jane Austen action figure on my desk!
Nowadays, though, I’m too desperate for writing time to be too precious about my rituals. All I need (at maximum) is a cup of tea by my side to start typing…or, if I’m lucky, several squares of good dark chocolate.
Oh, gosh, there are so many. Which to choose? How about my first-ever “novel”, a fifty-page epic Gothic romance called The Mystery of Castle Clew, exactly the type of book that would make Kat snort with digust? I wrote it when I was fourteen, setting it in Wales, which I knew absolutely nothing about! Ironically, I now live in Wales, and really love it here.
8. Name three famous people who you think would (or should) enjoy reading Kat, Incorrigible.
In my perfect world: Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, and JK Rowling.
Reading a really wonderful book, playing Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit with my husband (luckily I married a fellow geek!) or watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries for the 1000th time.
10. I fully approve. :) Now, imagine that Kat magically time-traveled to our 21st century. What movies would she enjoy watching? What things unique to our world would you like to introduce her to?
She’d be thrilled to find out that in the 21st century, women can get a real education and interesting, challenging jobs, so they have SO many more options than Regency women did.
And I think she’d love shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where smart girls get to kick magical butt!
Thanks for your wonderful answers to my questions, Steph! Check out Steph's author website for more information, and do consider preordering this middle-grade historical fantasy gem. Orrrr, if you're feeling lucky, I have an ARC of Kat, Incorrigible that I'm going to give away to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out this form here, making sure to answer the question relevantly. Because I feel like spreading the love about this book, I'm making this giveaway international, and it ends Monday, March 28, 2011. Good luck!